PK Connor Barth won't be a free agent, GM Dominik says; team could use their franchise tag
Bucs place-kicker Connor Barth, who made 26-of-28 field attempts last season, will not become an unrestricted free agent, general manager Mark Dominik said Saturday.
Barth is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 13. The Bucs are in the process of attempting to sign him to a long-term deal. But failing an agreement, Dominik essentially made it clear the Bucs would not hesitate to use their franchise tag on Barth.
"We obviously like Conner Barth a lot,'' Dominik said from the NFL scouting combine Saturday. "He's done a good job for us since he's been a Buccaneer. The truth is we think enough of him that he's not going to be an unrestricted free agent. We'll just figure out where that takes us from here.
"We are having discussions.''
The franchise tag number for place-kickers is about $2.65-million on a one-year contract that is guaranteed. Barth earned $1.9-million in 2011.
Dominik would not comment on negotiations, but it's believed that Barth is seeking a contract similar to the five-year, $15.759-million deal signed by Patriots place-kicker Stephen Gostkowski last season.
Gostkowski made 28-of-33 field goal attempts during the regular season (84.8 percent) and was 5-for-5 in the playoffs. Barth set a club record with his 92.9 field goal percentage and has made 83.9 of his career field goal attempts.
Barth has improved every season since signing as a free agent with the Bucs midway through 2009. Last year, he did not have to perform kickoff duties after the team signed Falcons free agent punter Michael Koenen.
Because of the low franchise tender, there could be several kickers tagged prior to free agency. The Jacksonville Jaguars are prepared to franchise place-kicker Josh Scobee, who went 23-of-25 in field goal attempts last year. NFL teams have until March 5 to decide whether to use a franchise or transition player tag.
Dominik said the Bucs also are negotiating with the agent for guard/center Jeremy Zuttah, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 13. Zuttah played for new Bucs head coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers.
"That's what brings Zuttah value to us,'' Dominik said. "That's why, again, we're going to try to get into good discussions here. Knowing his versatility is a big piece, knowing he can be inside at guard, or inside at center, that brings a lot of importance to us. Certainly his track record with coach Schiano is a positive.
Center Jeff Faine, 30, who is entering his 10th NFL season, is scheduled to earn a base salary of $5.925-million in 2012.